Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election Reflections

  • Why did City Solicitor Kuhn lose to challenger Mike Jones by more than a 2 to 1 margin, in spite of outspending Jones by more than a 2 to 1 margin? Because Kuhn made many enemies in his twelve years in office, and apparently other enemies before that, as an attorney. So deep are feelings against Kuhn that several people I talked to said they voted early by absentee ballot because they wanted to be sure that if they died before the election they would have the satisfaction of knowing their votes would count against him. I heard of a ninety-year-old woman who was wheeled to the polls by her daughter for one reason: to vote against Kuhn. What might her grievance be? Those who united to defeat him worked tirelessly and creatively. For them, this was not a campaign; it was a crusade.
  • Some were not so much voting for Jones as against Kuhn. Jones will have the opportunity to prove he can do a good job as solicitor, but this election voters were taking him on faith because they had so little faith in Kuhn, who was the devil they knew.
  • Jones was surprised at the margin of his victory. What he didn’t realize is how many enemies Kuhn has made, how many people he has deeply offended with his hypocrisy and outraged by his incompetence. Jones said he had no animosity toward Kuhn, but many of those who voted Kuhn out of office did.
  • Now Bob Mollette will not be the lone voice of reason on the City Council, and he will not have to spend so much time trying to get the City Solicitor to do what he is supposed to do. After his defeat, Kuhn had no comment when contacted by the PDT. At least they were able to contact him, which was not always the case before the election.
  • A mild-mannered man who felt he had been wronged by Kuhn told me that if the solicitor were reelected to office he would no longer have any faith in the democratic process. Political campaigns, like marriages, are not made in heaven, and politicians unfortunately too often represent the worst in a community, while claiming to represent the best. It was ever thus, and all we can hope is that there will always be concerned citizens, however few in number, who have not lost all faith in government and who are willing to take on the rich and powerful, who are too often also the greedy and the dictatorial who control government.
  • The absence of Marty Mohr and the presence of Rich Noel, who replaces him as the Sixth Ward councilman, will mean an end to the snarling contentiousness that sometimes erupted into shouting matches and led to Council president Baughman banging his gavel. Noel will never call citizens who show up at council meetings “crap” nor will he be quick to get into testosterone contests with young bucks. When the octogenarian Noel told the PDT he had “been there and done that,” he meant he had more important things to do on city council than flex his muscles. Noel will not try to restrict the rights of citizens to address the council. He will not flip-flop on Marting’s, as Mohr did. Noel is like a redwood, old in years but strong in stature. He’s seen the fire and he’s seen the rain, and he’s still standing. He’s seen them come and he’s seen them go, the successive generations of politicians who have stuck it to the city, the generations of businessmen who were willing to do everything they could for Portsmouth except let in some competition.
  • Bob Mollette will not be alone anymore. We will have fewer five to one votes. But we are not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. Kalb is still mayor. Baughman is still president of City Council. The Second and Fifth Wards are still represented by the rubber stamps Malone and Albrecht. (Malone, of course, represents not the Second Ward but Neal Hatcher.) The First Ward still has to bear the ignominy of being represented by “appointee” Mike Mearan, minus his purse-snatching stenographer Heather Hren. Horner is still Chief of Police, denouncing concerned citizens as “domestic terrorists.” Larry Justice is still City Engineer, marking up the sidewalks of those who criticize city government. Mark Kuhn is still County Solicitor, even if he can no longer team up with his uncle to frustrate justice. The local economy is still controlled by the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership. The Portsmouth Daily Times is still the house organ of the Chamber of Commerce. Real estate predator Neal Hatcher is still giving people the finger. And businesses on Chillicothe street are still closing a year after the Bridge to Nowhere was supposed to begin reviving downtown Portsmouth. Council meetings are still not televised because our corrupt politicians don’t want the public to witness American Idle.
  • Ministers who dabble in child pornography are still invited to council to give the benediction. And the leak in the council chamber ceiling is allowed to get worse to justify spending $12 million on a new municipal building in the left armpit of Portsmouth, in the shadow of the Osco factory.
  • But at least this election has made the city government a little less corrupt than it was. They haven’t yet succeeded in shoving the Marting building down the throat of the public, though Kalb is still trying, trying, trying. They can’t get away with what they could fifty years ago, before the internet, blogs, chatrooms, cell phones, texting, and alternative newspapers. Citizens continue to crowd council meetings and ask probing questions, something they had not done before the Marting Scam. Despite disappointments, this is an election to be thankful for, and to be thankful for those few who fought the good fight for a long time, against greater odds. If they are not with us in body, they are with us in spirit, providing us with an example to follow. They survive somewhere in the Blogosphere.